If you are new to psychotherapy or have had some past therapy experiences that were disappointing, it may feel especially daunting to figure out how to find the right therapist. On the other hand, having gotten to this page, it is clear that you are taking this journey seriously and attempting to gather as much information as you can to choose the right therapist.
What You Should Expect of the Therapist
A good fit is a therapist who has solid training and expertise dealing with the specific issues that are causing you pain, and the issues that you are hoping to address. Whether you choose a psychologist, a social worker, or psychiatrist, you will want to be sure that the therapist is licensed in the state where you live.
Confidence may be heightened if the therapist has certification in areas of particular interest to you. For example, if you are looking for group therapy, certification as a group psychotherapist (CGP), or if you are looking for help with an alcohol problem or in getting treatment for a loved one, certification as an addictions specialist.
You will also want to acquaint yourself with the therapist’s training and credentials more generally. High levels of expertise may be indicated by extensive teaching and training experience and experience supervising others, as well as lectures about psychotherapy, books, and articles.
What to Tell the Therapist in the Initial Phone Contact
Take the time in your initial phone contact with the therapist to describe your situation and the issues that you are hoping to work on to determine if those issues are a good fit for the kind of work that he or she does. If you have been in therapy before, let him or her know what about your prior experiences worked for you and what did not.
Let the therapist know of any scheduling limitations that may affect your availability. Also ask if he or she accepts the particular kind of insurance that you have; and if so, how billing is handled.
This conversation, perhaps with a few therapists who seem like good candidates, will give you enough information to determine whether you are ready to set up an initial consultation with one or more of them.
What to Pay Attention to When you Meet the Therapist in Person
When you meet with the potential psychotherapists in person, you will get a fuller sense of who they are and how they work. Pay attention to the therapist’s style, level of professionalism, and general comfort of the therapy environment, and let him or her know about any misgivings you have. For a good working relationship, it is important right from the beginning for you to feel you can to discuss your concerns and feel that the therapist is listening.
If you will be having initial consultation sessions with other therapists, be up front about this. Most psychotherapists will consider it important for you to take your time to make a well informed decision and will appreciate your being straightforward about this.
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Dr. Marsha Vannicelli is a nationally recognized author and lecturer who has trained and supervised scores of clinicians in the Boston area in the art of psychotherapy through her clinical books, articles, and lectures/workshops.
© 2017 Marsha Vannicelli